You are insignificant, unnecessary, meaningless and worse, temporary. Countless species are anxiously waiting for your obsolete kind to suddenly, mysteriously, eternally vanish -- leaving but a few fossils, a handful of credit card bills, and a half-eaten container of gelato.
That’s the message you get during a summer trip to the National Museum of Natural History in Washington. It leads to huge questions like why humans are the only species that need clothes. Everything else is wash-and-wear. Some even get customized coats every year; a perfect fit. You can’t get that at Macy’s no matter how good you are at higher math.
At the museum you remember the dinosaurs were here 150 million years and they were big, really big. Sharks meantime have been here 400 million years and they’re big too. We‘re here only 200,000 years, and we’re small, really small. If size matters, the only hope we have is the cockroach, 300 million years old. I never thought I’d envy roaches but learning their skills could score a timeless position inside the bowels of a restaurant.
When you’re done with the past, you head to the National Air and Space Museum to learn about the most beguiling subject in the universe -- dark matter. That stuff that clearly is stuff but no one knows what kind of stuff only that surely it is stuff so we give it an important scientific name: Matter. And since stuff sounds sort of stuffy, we add an interesting adjective: dark. This explains everything.
I peer into the dome of the planetarium and wonder about the vastness of the universe. I’m dizzy about whether we’re going forward or backward as the stars explode and the matter spreads depending I guess on whether the sharks are eating the roaches or it’s the other way around.
The reason we don’t know what the matter with the matter is, is that it’s secretive. I want to reach up and say, matter matters. Take a chance, open up, be more vulnerable.
The problem could be dark energy. That’s what moves the matter around. Fortunately, this explains everything.
Once you’re done exploring the past and future, you walk outside and gaze at the U.S. Capital, standing big yet somehow small in the present moment.
If most of the species that ever did exist are long gone, and most of the species that ever will exist are unborn, it’s hard to get excited about what’s happening right now: politics, government, hazelnut gelato.
The question of the curious meaning of life looms.
Fortunately, it’s all been explained.
C.S. Lewis said, “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”
Well, this explains everything.
In other words . . . If the sharks and cockroaches are ruling the past and probably the future, and Congress is ruling the present now that the dinosaurs are gone -- there must be some light in the universe to solve all that’s wrong in the dark world today.
June 16, 2015